My Octopus Teacher

Some people do lead extraordinary lives. I’m fascinated by some documentaries and the subject matter to which drives a person to make them.

Netflix have certainly pushed a fair few documentaries out, many of which have induced outrage at the shortcomings of the modern world but My Octopus Teacher is different insofar as it is heartwarming, humble and curious.

So Craig Foster is burnt out from filming and editing, so goes back to his childhood home in South Africa and starts to go diving, and from there he starts to create a bond with an Octopus, one to which he earns the trust of a creature initially weary and from there, the story of her life carries us through the documentary.

And it’s well worth the watch, I became as engaged in it as a well put together thriller, you begin to not help but care for the creature.

And the overall story is personal as opposed to objective science, but in it is a profound message about our need to connect with the natural world, how it heals us, makes us more empathetic and enjoy the precious gift that being alive in this beautiful world is.


This Netflix documentary riled a lot of people.

On one hand, you have members of the public and watching in shock horror of the reality of the situation in regards to fishing and the industry.

On the other you have companies responding to defend themselves and marine biologists weighing in to debunk some of the misinformation that was included in the documentary.

And whilst I get that the prediction that fish being extinct from the sea by 2048 and the source used for that number was debunked, the intention was in the shock factor.

Misleading? Perhaps, but humans like predicting the future and we are also terrible at it.

I haven’t eaten fish in 7 years after turning vegetarian so I watched it more out of curiosity than looking for it to change my thinking about my diet.

I however, learnt a lot, and for all the defence and debunking that the documentary will come under scrutiny for, I have to credit Ali Tabrizi for having the courage to tackle a daunting subject, one in which consumers for the most part would rather avoid the reality.

There are revelations where people watching have a right to be angry, here are some that stuck with me:

‘Dolphin safe’ being a completely meaningless and disingenuous message for consumers.

Bycatch being far too unregulated.

Shark fin soup and cutting shark fins being a completely pointless and cruel business.

Media hysteria for plastic straws that ultimately accounts for 0.03% of all plastic in the ocean and the blind eye that has been given to plastic pollution caused by fishing. (One criticism I’ve seen about the documentary is that it downplays consumer habits making a difference, I don’t agree, it was much needed relativism).

Human rights abuse and slavery of poor people in the fish trade.

Developed countries fishing in a way that leads to a domino effect of poverty and health crisis in under developed countries.

Salmon fishing being outright gross.

No proper definition on sustainable fishing. Once again the documentary was criticised for saying there was no such thing as sustainable fishing but it’s a bit understandable for Ali to conclude that that is the case when no one was willing to give him a straight answer. I imagine there is sustainable fishing but I’m none the wiser for what that actually looks like.

I’m sure there’s more but it’s 90 intense minutes and a lot to take in. The documentary is designed to provoke and when there’s not much of a mainstream discussion point that has been established, that’s what it has done so my belief is that it contributes to the narrative in a very positive way.

Final thoughts. The documentary steers towards a conclusion where a plant based diet is recommended but it’s not done in the way that some critics have pointed out. For me, I felt it was more of a personal story and what Ali thought was best for him. In no way, do I believe it imposes the notion that vegan diets are a viable alternative for everyone.

As a vegetarian, I acknowledge it as a personal choice and whilst I encourage it, I don’t expect it to be right for everyone. I do however, think that the western and developed world relies far too heavily on meat.

Ultimately, we are amidst a climate and environmental crisis that I’ve grown up in. I’m sick of people denying it, I’m sick of corporations and politicians turning a blind eye to the facts whilst playing lip service and going down the same consumerist and capitalist path of unsustainably. Our generation and future generations have to live through this and clean up this mess.

Things have to change and they are, but they need to change faster.

And to make it happen, you have to hyperbolise the worse case scenarios, you have to piss people off and you have to make a ruckus.

Ali and his team did just that.

Make of it what you will, and if the fishing industry comes under fire and sees a decline in demand, the world will be a bit better for it.

White Tiger

I feel blessed to be able to tap into international cinema.

The recently released ‘White Tiger’ the Indian film that in brutal fashion, explores class struggle with a feature length running metaphor of a rooster in the coop that holds its weight from start to finish. The film is a modern day Dickinson fable.

Rarely do I watch a film where nearly every scene has dialogue that hits like a sucker punch on the reality of inequality in India and beyond.

When I lived in Dubai, I was called ‘sir’ by people serving me more times than I’d like to. I heard stories of people from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh who send the majority of their salaries to support their families at home.

Hundreds of millions of lives, that are depraved of education, a proper financial net for basic needs and opportunity.

There is every possibility that this can change. We have the means and we have the resources but do the people in power have the desire?

There’s a running trend in impeccable films that are starting to explore the same theme of inequality. ‘Parasite’ and now ‘White Tiger’ don’t shy away from these themes that are of today and translate internationally.

‘White Tiger’ shines a light of truth of the reality on India, and in one instance, dismisses the hope of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in a single line.

The situation for too many is hopeless.

I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s well worth a watch and make you think a lot.